In Russia, Crimes Against Journalists Go Unsolved

posted 23 Feb 2011, 15:02 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 23 Feb 2011, 23:00 ]
Source: (info), 22/02/11

· Freedom of Speech · Ministry of Internal Affairs · Public Prosecutor’s Office · Security Services

On 15 February, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an international NGO, presented a report in New York entitled Attacks on the Press in 2010. The report contains a review of the conditions in which journalists and media work in more than 100 countries, and also data about journalists who have been killed and are imprisoned.

The authors of the report underline two key points about the situation in Russia. The first is the passing of a law directed against critical media, giving security services wide powers, which has the goal of suppressing criticism of the government, since, as Aleksei Simonov, president of the Glasnost Defence Foundation, told the CPJ, “it brands all those who are not in agreement with the government, all those who oppose the authorities, as extremists.” The second is that, the CPJ report notes, there has been “some progress in journalist murder probes, but attacks continue with impunity,” reports.
The authors of the report devoted special attention to the issue of impunity for those who attack the press. They consider that Russia is one of those countries where murders of journalists usually remain unpunished. And our neighbours in this rating turn out to be Iraq, Somalia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Columbia, Afghanistan and Nepal – countries where the situation is worse than in Russia.

The Committee to Protect Journalists expressed concern that to this day in Russia crimes against the press are going unsolved. Moreover, this is the case not only for high-profile crimes such as the killings of Anna Politkovskaya, Yury Shchekochikhin, Natalia Estemirova, and Anastasia Baburova, but also for crimes committed in the Russian regions. In particular, the executive director of the CPJ, Joel Simon, said that in Russia negative trends were persistent in the protection and observance of the rights of journalists. He related how, at a meeting with Aleksandr Bastrykin, chair of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, during which “the authorities were highly receptive to our concerns,” the Russian side promised the CPJ representatives to investigate 19 unsolved murders of journalists, information about which the visitors passed on to the law enforcement agency. “While we welcome such commitments as a positive sign,” said Joel Simon, “we obviously remain skeptical of the government's intention […]. The question in the year ahead is how to turn these commitments into concrete action - meaning arrests, prosecutions, and convictions.”

The statement by the CPJ that “no journalists were murdered in 2010” in Russia in retaliation for their reporting is striking. Glasnost Defence Foundation has its own view on this question: a number of instances of the death of media representatives in the past year were very similar to murders in connection with their work.

Aleksei Simonov, president of the Glasnost Defence Foundation, commented on these differences in approach: “For international organizations, death in the course of one’s professional duties is a death confirmed by the law enforcement agencies. We have no such trust, as they do, in the law enforcement agencies, and therefore our figures have always diverged, and will diverge in the future. At present we still lack clarity in at least two or three cases.”